Flyers General Manager Daniel Briere meets with the media ahead of 2023 Training Camp.

As the Philadelphia Flyers prepare to embark on the rebuilding process -- and their second season with John Tortorella at the helm as head coach -- the overarching question is how the organization itself would define a successful 2023-24 season.

In year one, the primary goal was to assess which players would be part of the process for the long haul. Additionally, both on and off the ice, the objective was to begin re-establishing an internal team identity and culture ("standard" is Tortorella's preferred term of choice).

Baby steps were taken in the right direction, although there's still a lot of work to be done in 2023-24 and beyond. Last year, the team's game-to-game competitiveness level improved, despite key injuries that kept veteran leaders Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson off the ice for the entire season. The team improved by 14 points (61 points in 2021-22 to 75 points last year). Considering the starting point, it was modest progress but progress nonetheless.

Perhaps even more importantly in the bigger picture, a number of Flyers players under the age of 25 took significant strides at the NHL level season. Flyers general manager Daniel Briere identified forwards Owen Tippett, Noah Cates and Morgan Frost as well as defenseman Cam York among the players who came along the furthest from the start of training camp last September until the end of the season. He also praised the team's leading scorer in 2022-23, Travis Konecny, for growing as a leader over the last year.

In a far-reaching media availability session that covered a wide array of topics, Briere spoke for 20-plus minutes on Tuesday. Below are five key themes and takeaways from the press conference to set the tone for training camp. Skating tests are on Thursday with pucks hitting the ice for the first time the next day.

1. The returns of Couturier and Atkinson

The Flyers will enter training camp with 57 players on the roster. Unlike last year, when there were a number or precamp training injuries to players such as Joel Farabee, Couturier, Atkinson and prospect Bobby Brink, the Flyers at present are a relatively healthy group. 

"So far so good," Briere said with a wry smile. 

He knows all too well how rapidly that can change. But at least the clubs' players were collectively able to have "normal" summers in terms of their offseason training routines. In and of itself, that's an encouraging sign.

This is especially true where Couturier and Atkinson are concerned. Couturier, who underwent back surgery during the 2021-22 campaign and a second "revision" procedure last year, has not played a game in the last season-and-a-half. Atkinson went from day-to-day status early in last year's camp to missing the entire 2023-24 season after undergoing neck surgery. 

Now, both players will be on the ice for the start of camp. The importance of their health holding up cannot be overstated.

"Adding guys like Atkinson and Couturier to the room will help a lot on offense," Briere said. 

Later, Briere discussed the two players' value as veteran leaders who bring stability and play both ends of special teams. It's no secret that the Flyers have struggled mightily both on the power play and the penalty kill the last two seasons. Having healthy and productive versions of Couturier and Atkinson on the ice in a variety of game situations would be an instant boost for the club in all manpower situations and take some pressure off the younger contingent on the roster to shoulder the heaviest lifting.

Briere noted that the club's offseason signing of veteran defenseman Marc Staal and trade acquisition of Sean Walker could have a somewhat similar effect on the defense corps in terms of adding leadership and alleviating some pressure.

2. Opportunities for rookie hopefuls and younger vets

How much will the 2023-24 Flyers lean on new and returning veterans to play the toughest minutes? Conversely, will rookie hopefuls such as right winger Tyson Foerster, center Elliot Desnoyers and young defensemen like Egor Zamula, Emil Andrae or Ronnie Attard have extensive chances to crack the NHL as regular starters? 

"At the end of the day, the players are going to decide that. If they're not ready to play, we're not going to keep forcing them back in the lineup. In some cases, maybe they'll go down [to the Phantoms in the AHL] or maybe they'll just need more practice time. We'll try to gauge the temperature. But there's no doubt that it's critical for us to develop our young guys and think about the long term."

Ultimately, Briere said, the key is not just to put younger players in the NHL lineup but do so when and where they have the best chance at making good on the opportunity.

"That's something we're going to gauge along the way. We had that last year. Guys like Noah Cates and Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett, they were all able to thrive and get better. I felt that Torts did a really good job at sensing when -- and where -- he could put them in a position to succeed.  He did the same thing with Cam York on defense. He felt, early on, that Cam needed a little bit more work. That was a great call. He was able to go down to Lehigh Valley, get a little more confidence, then he came back and was one our best defensemen until the end of the year," Briere said.

"Hopefully we can add a couple more guys the same way. But we're going to read the situation and, hopefully, they're able to swim and survive."

3. Waiver eligibility isn't "protection"

Every organization in the NHL has some players who, while still reasonably young, stand at a crossroads in their careers. They've been pros long enough that they are no longer exempt from waivers if they do not earn an NHL roster spot for opening night. 

Perhaps they've had repeated injury issues that cost them valuable development time and opportunities. Maybe they've shown flashes of ability to contribute at the NHL level but on a sporadic basis. Whatever the case, these players enter camp either on the NHL roster bubble or teetering between the top 12 forward/ top six defenseman grouping or depth players trying to work their way into the starting lineup. 

Flyers players such as forwards Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski, defenseman Egor Zamula and goalie Felix Sandström  enter the 2023 training camp as waiver-eligible players if they do not make the opening-night roster. To varying degrees, all of have encountered injury roadblocks along their development paths.

Laczynski had surgeries on both hips in recent years. Zamula underwent shoulder surgery in April 2023 and had back surgery  several years ago. Allison, has had a cavalcade of injuries at the collegiate, AHL and NHL levels, However, he has arguably had the most NHL success to date among this grouping. Even so, entering camp, but is not still not a lock for an opening-night starting spot.

"I think they all realize, it's really time to take a step for them," Briere said. "They're getting a little older and we're getting more and more young guys kind of pushing from the rear also. I think that's awesome to have competition for those roles. Nothing's going to be given. Everyone will have to earn their spot."

Tortorella in particular is not inclined to factor players' waiver-eligibility status when it comes to weighing in on which players he wants on his NHL roster. Lacking waiver exemption will not "protect" a bubble player when it comes time for the Flyers' decision-makers to announce roster cuts. 

4. The goalie depth chart

The Flyers enter training with two NHL opening night jobs available for four goalies who have varying degrees of NHL experience on their resumes. Briere made crystal clear at Tuesday's press conference that reigning Bobby Clarke Trophy winner Carter Hart stands alone atop the goalie depth chart as the start of the 2023-24 season draws close.

"Carter has proven that he's a good NHL starting goalie," Briere said. "He's our No. 1."

In the meantime, there's a three-player battle for the No. 2 spot. Samuel Ersson, 23, enjoyed a strong AHL season as the Phantoms' starter last season and showed promise in 12 NHL games. He has one year to go on his entry-level NHL contract -- and one season of remaining waiver exemption -- before a two-year contract extension signed this summer kicks in come 2024-25.

Sandström, 26, served as Hart's primary NHL backup for the majority of the 2022-23 season but failed to solidify his NHL status. He now faces a battle for positioning on the depth chart, and may be looking at an uphill climb in camp.

During the offseason, the Flyers acquired veteran Cal Petersen, 28, from the LA Kings in the three-team trade that sent Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets and brought a 2023 first-round pick (Oliver Bonk), veteran defenseman Sean Walker and goalie Petersen to the Flyers. It was only a couple years ago that Petersen seemed to be on the brink of succeeding Jonathan Quick as LA's starting goalie. However, he's coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. Last season, Petersen ended up in the AHL after a rough start to the NHL campaign.

In camp, there will be an open competition between Ersson, Petersen and Sandström. Which one enters the season in the NHL and which goalies may open with the Phantoms remain to be seen.

5. Defying the doubters

Briere is well aware that few NHL pundits have predicted that the Flyers will make significant improvement in their 2023-24 win-loss record compared to last season. Some, in fact, have said the team may even take an immediate backward step -- following the subtractions of Ivan Provorov, Kevin Hayes and Anthony DeAngelo -- before future forward steps take place.

"I see where everyone is predicting that we'll be last or bottom three in the NHL," Briere said.

 "I don't know where it's going to go. I hope the players use that as a motivation. We hope -- and we believe -- that we're better than what the predictions are. But, at the same time, these guys are going to be in control of that. It's  their turn; their chance to prove everybody wrong."